The absence of Drexler means that Magic and Jordan are matched up. "Those two going against each other," Dream Team assistant coach Mike Krzyzewski told me in 2011, "was the pimple being popped."
Jordan dribbles upcourt, and Magic yells, "Let's go, Blue. Pick it up now." This is what Magic has missed since he retired because of his HIV diagnosis in November 1991: the juice he got from leading a team, being the conductor, the voice box, the man from whom all energy flows. A half hour earlier, during leisurely full-court layup drills, Magic had suddenly stopped and flung the ball into the empty seats. "We're here to practice!" he yelled. That was his signal that the players were half-assing it, and the day turned on that moment. Magic had promised Daly back in the U.S., "I will see to it that there will be no bad practices."
Bird gets the ball on the right side, guarded by Laettner. With an almost theatrical flourish Bird swings his torso as if to pass to Jordan in the corner. Bird made better use of body fakes than anyone who ever lived, his remedy for a relative lack of quickness. Laettner bites, and Bird is free to drive left into the lane, where he passes to Malone on the left baseline. Malone misses a jumper, Ewing misses an easy tip, and Laettner grabs the rebound.
Magic dribbles upcourt and goes into his Toscanini act, waving both Laettner and Mullin away from the right side and motioning for Barkley to isolate on the block. Bird has him on a switch. "Go to work, CB!" Magic instructs. "Go to work!" Barkley up-fakes Bird but air balls a jumper. Laettner is there for the rebound and lays it in.
Johnson's Blue Team 5, Jordan's White Team 0.
Playing tit for tat at the other end, Malone posts up Barkley on the left side. But the Mailman misses an easy jumper, and Laettner—player of the game so far—gets the rebound. At the other end Laettner drives baseline on Ewing, who shoulders him out-of-bounds. "Don't force it if we don't have it," says Magic, directing the comment at Laettner.
After the inbounds pass, Magic dribbles into the lane and spins between Jordan and Pippen, a forced drive if there ever was one. (It is incumbent upon Magic's followers to do as he says, not as he does.) The gentleman from Italy blows his whistle, and no one is sure what the call is, including the gentleman from Italy. Bird, a veteran pickup-game strategist, turns to go upcourt, figuring that will sell the call as a travel, but Magic is already demanding a foul. He wins.
"That's a foul?" Jordan asks in his deep baritone.
(Years later I will watch Magic in a pickup game at UCLA, this one without referees, and he will win the foul battle virtually every time, standing around incredulously until he is awarded the ball, and on defense pointedly playing through his own fouls and acting like a petulant child when an infraction is called on him.)
A minute later Barkley bats away Pippen's shovel pass to Ewing and storms pell-mell to the other end. Bird is ahead of him but overruns the play, and Barkley puts in a layup.